Caring for the Kimberley
A Preliminary Survey of the Birdlife of Kachana Station
Current knowledge of the Kimberley avifauna is patchy and centred around towns and major roads. Kachana station is located in an area visited infrequently by ornithologists - in the recent Atlas of Australian Birds, fewer than 50 surveys were conducted in the one-degree block surrounding Kachana. Even then the majority of these surveys were conducted along areas of easy access around the periphery of the region. As such any study of the birds of Kachana has the potential to provide a significant contribution to what is known of the region’s avifauna.
Observations were made from the 18th to the 24th of May 2004 . Rather than dedicated to birds, the trip was focused on collecting fish, so bird observations were made opportunistically. Sightings have been divided into north, central and south Kachana. Comparisons have been made between species recorded during this survey and a previous list compiled for the station and with species recorded in this one-degree block during the Atlas of Australian Birds. Emphasis has also been placed on species of conservation concern.
During this survey 54 species of birds were recorded compared to the 98 that have been previously recorded at Kachana Station. Eight species were added to the list for Kachana Station being the Black Bittern, Galah, Australian Owlet Nightjar, Red browed Pardalote, Brown Honeyeater, Tawny Grassbird, Singing Bushlark and White-breasted Woodswallow.
23 species were recorded in all sections of Kachana. The most abundant species tended to be White-throated Honeyeater, Yellow-tinted Honeyeater, Striated Pardalote, Double-barred Finch and the Peaceful Dove.
Four species were recorded in addition to those so far recorded in this block by the Atlas of Australian Birds; Northern Rosella, Tawny Grassbird, Singing Bushlark and White-breasted Woodswallow. The Northern Rosella was common in the areas of eucalypt woodland with denser overstorey while the Tawny Grassbird and Singing Bushlark were recorded on single occasions in tall grassland adjacent to a creekline and airstrip respectively. Including the station list, the Atlas and the present survey, 130 species have been recorded in this atlas block.
Table 1: Bird species recorded from Kachana Station during a survey in May 2004 and from ongoing observations and those recorded from the surrounding one degree block (Barrett et al., 2003). South refers to the areas around Kachana and Weiner creeks. Central refers to the area from the airstrip north to Cleanskins camp. North refers to the area around Wanjamia homestead.
No species of immediate conservation concern were detected during the May 2004 survey. However, three species previously recorded at the station are listed as such in the Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley , 2000); Australian Bustard (near threatened), Princess Parrot (near threatened) and Gouldian Finch (endangered). The record of the Princess Parrot represents a vagrant well outside the breeding distribution of this species (Simpson & Day, 1996). Alternatively, the Gouldian Finch and Australian Bustard are likely to have undergone a decline in the region. The Gouldian Finch occupies tropical woodland with a grassy understorey, often in hilly areas. The decline across its range has been attributed to cattle grazing and altered fire regimes (Garnett & Crowley, 2000). The Australian Bustard occupies a variety of open habitats. Its population has undergone a patchy decline believed to be in response to invasion of pastoral land by woody weeds, hunting and fox predation and a tendency to desert nests in response to cattle and humans (Garnett & Crowley, 2000).
Four species were recorded during the survey that had not been previously recorded in this one-degree block in the Atlas of Australian Birds. These records of Northern Rosella , Singing Bushlark and White breasted Woodswallow fill in a gap in the Kimberley distribution of these species. Most likely, they have not been previously recorded in this area due to low observer effort and local patchiness of their distribution. Alternatively the record of the Tawny Grassbird was much further inland than other Kimberley records during the current Atlas (Barret et al., 2003). However, this record still lies within the distribution given by Simpson & Day (1996). The tall, dense grass the bird was located in was regarded as typical habitat for this species.
Of those species known from the station but not recorded during the survey, a large majority comprised of waterbirds, birds of prey and species recorded outside their regular distribution. Furthermore, several species recorded from the station had not been recorded in the Atlas of Australian Birds. This suggests that the avifauna of the region remains poorly surveyed, in particular species of low density or irregular occurrence.
Barrett, G., Silcocks, A., Barry, S., Cunningham, R. & Poulter, R. (2003). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Royal Australian Ornithologists Union , Hawthorn, Victoria .
Garnett, S.T. & Crowley, G.M. (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds. Environment Australia , Canberra .
Simpson, K. Day, N. (1996). Field Guide to the Birds of Australia , 5 th Edition. Penguin Books Australia , Ringwood , Victoria .